Friday, February 05, 2016

Happy Reagan's Birthday! 105th Anniversary of One of Our Greatest Presidents is Reminder of What We Can Do

As you prepare to vote in the upcoming presidential primaries ask yourself: what would Reagan do?

Friday evening I am speaking at a special Reagan Birthday event presented by the Beaufort Federation of Republican Men. Here's a preview of what I may say. It's based on my own personal experience with the Reagan Revolution.

Then Governor Reagan and George H.W. Bush accept the
GOP nomination in Detroit July 17, 1980. Here's Reagan's speech.
I first met Governor and Nancy Reagan in Fountain Square Cincinnati in May 1980. This was prior to the Ohio primary and after George H.W. Bush had dropped out of the race. A friend and I were able to walk right up to the Reagan's as they arrived and welcome them. Later, on the ropeline after Reagan's speech I watched as my friend shook Reagan's hand and told him to "pick Bush" for Vice President.

Imagine my surprise when as a Youth Delegate to the Republican National Convention in Detroit a few months later that Reagan did just that. And what a thrill it was to be in the Joe Louis Arena on that magic night.

Six months later I was in Washington to witness the Inauguration of President Reagan. Jump ahead to October 1982 when I volunteered to assist the White House prepare for a presidential trip to Columbus, Ohio. I was the driver for Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy who was wounded in the assassination attempt on Reagan's life in March 1981. McCarthy used his body to shield Reagan from what might have been the fatal shot.

In 1984 I organized Students for Reagan Bush at Bowling Green State University. Our group had asked an Ohio Congressman to speak on behalf of President Reagan but the congressman said "why not get President Reagan?" We jumped at the chance. It was the first event held on a college campus and the President's team was no doubt concerned about the reaction but they need not have worried. The energy in Anderson Arena was electric and it was packed to the rafters with enthusiastic student supporters.

Thousands of enthusiastic students crammed Anderson Arena at Bowling Green State University September 26, 1984 to hear President Reagan speak on world affairs and how peace through strength works. Speech here.
Three weeks later I took the following photograph at a Whistlestop tour of Ohio. The famous "U.S. No. 1" train car, now resides in the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami, Florida.

Lit by torchlight this train tour was one of the last whistlestops that were so much a part of
20th Century presidential campaigns. This stop was in Perrysburg Ohio October 12, 1984.
Text of Reagan's remarks (sixth item here) still holds true today. 
A few months later I was back in Washington again for the second Inauguration. Temperatures were at zero so the outdoor swearing in took place indoors. And few were outside to watch the Inaugural fireworks in the snow. It was an incredible sight. Flares circled the Washington Monument and it appeared as if the Monument was a rocket blasting into space!

Three years went by until I left Columbia University in New York City where I was doing postgraduate study in national security and government affairs to work in the White House Political Office during the 1988 presidential election. Long hours spent drafting correspondence and coordinating events was punctuated by visits to the White House lawn to wave goodbye to the Reagan's as they departed on the Helicopter or welcome visiting dignitaries.

Highlights from that time:

First, the arrival of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for a final State Visit. All the stops were pulled out. I took this picture after Mrs. Thatcher reviewed the honor guard:

British Prime Minister thanks military representative following Honor Guard review.
This was the final State Visit by Margaret Thatcher on November 16, 1988.
Another favorite photo. Me with the boss after a fundraiser at a Washington hotel. Earlier I posed with other staff members with a lifesize cardboard Reagan that was popular with tourists at the time. I told the President: "I hope this comes out better than the one with the cardboard president." He laughed.
President Reagan visit's Mike's America's hometown of Bowling Green Ohio October 19, 1988 (speech here). I suggested the trip and was pleased to help coordinate it. A bonus was that my parents got to meet the President.
Win One More for the Gipper

Finally, the day after the November election (Bush won in case you forgot) the President asked the White House staff to gather in the Rose Garden to say thanks for all our hard work. It was a beautiful fall day. Remembering how Reagan used the phrase "win one more for the Gipper" (a reference to his classic movie role as George Gip in 'Knute Rockne All American'-video clip) Yours truly shouted out "that was one for the Gipper" as the President turned to leave. He smiled and then proceeded to tell us all another of those classic Gipper stories. The Reagan Library provided me with this clip. Cue the player to the 2 minute mark to get the warmup for my interuption at 2:40:

Reagan Farewell Address: Solid Accomplishments That Stand the Test of Time

In his last address from the Oval Office President Reagan remarks on the achievements of the Reagan Revolution. It's worth a look if you haven't seen it:

As you get ready to vote this year ask yourself "what would Reagan do" then go out and WIN ONE MORE FOR THE GIPPER!

P.S. Thanks to the Republican men and women of Beaufort for their warm and gracious welcome. It was like a reunion of old friends taking a walk down memory lane!

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